Slug System Upgrade

The first version of the multi-tank slug system has served reasonably well, but it has had its limitations.  The main problems have been the sprawl of equipment (note the tanks, dosers, auto-topoff, scattered about in the photo below), the low height of the shelves, which limits lighting options, and the cramped nature of the shelf unit, which makes maintaining or replacing tanks difficult.  I also wanted a bigger sump, mostly to have a little more volume to prevent floods.  To be honest, the photo makes it look even worse than it was, because I had moved a cabinet in preparation for the new system, leaving controllers and power supplies lying in a pile on a temporary shelf.  Nonetheless, the system was long past due for an upgrade.

Old slug and algae system before upgrade. 2/25/17.

It took a few weeks to decide exactly how much space I could afford, and how to design the new shelves to accommodate existing tanks and allow flexibility in future configurations.  I finally settled on a 60 X 16 inch footprint, which would accommodate the 15 and 20 gallon tanks on the top, plus a little extra space.  It would be smaller than the space made available by the removal of one file cabinet and the old slug system, giving a little elbow room for maintenance and repair.  I decided on 48 inch height.  Enough for two shelves for tanks, and a bottom shelf for a sump.  Three rows of tanks, a sump level, plus ample height for lights would just be too tall for me to reach easily.  My experience with the current system has taught me that more tanks is not necessarily better,  The second shelf would have room for a couple of 10-gallon tanks, or various combinations of 5- and 10-gallon tanks for smaller-scale experiments. The dosers and controllers would be on the bottom shelf with the sump, protecting them from splash, and making the system almost completely self-contained.  By necessity, the chiller will have to be off to the side in order to move heat away from the tanks.

I decided to build the frame from 2X3 studs, and use 1/2″ plywood for the shelves.  The studs should be plenty strong to support the 5 foot shelf, and 2X4s would be overkill and make the system that much heavier.  The weight of the shelves is transmitted to the floor by 2X3s that run from the bottom of one shelf support to the top of the next.  There is a second set of vertical 2X3s going all the way from the top shelf to the floor, providing more stability and support.

Shelves built 2/5/17

For paint, I chose a latex semi-gloss.  I hope I don’t regret not using marine paint, but I am hoping that the primer plus three coats applied over the course of a week will be adequately waterproof.  I tried to match the color of the walls in the office, but it turned out a bit more blue than I had intended.  The piece of plywood on the back provides a surface for attaching controllers, power supplies, dosing pumps and drain brackets.

Shelves painted and ready for plumbing, 2/15/17.

In order to simplify moving tanks in and out, I installed a 2″ drain with 8 openings along the bottom shelf, and a 3/4″ supply pipe with barbed valves along the top shelf.  Installing and removing a tank will be as simple as connecting a supply hose and placing a flexible drain hose from the tank into a drain opening.

Drains installed 2/18/17.

The new system in place, showing the supply valves 2/25/15.

Then came the hard work of moving everything over.  After Joanna pointed out that the shelves would not fit in the Jetta, I reserved a U-haul pickup truck, and we moved it from home to the office.  Then it was simply a matter of spending 10 or so hours reinstalling plumbing, draining and moving tanks, setting up lights and pumps, mounting dosers and controllers, fussing with details, and cleaning up the resulting mess.

Up and running, 2/26/17.

I am very happy with the results.  My office is less cluttered, every aspect of the system is more accessible, the electronics are better protected from splash, and I don’t have to climb on a chair to work on the top tank.  The Neptune Apex controller became a little buggy during the process, but I can again control and monitor the system remotely after a few reboots.  The leak detection module is still not fully functional, so I am keeping fingers crossed that there will be no floods, large or small, until it is fixed.

One happy development is that the Bryopsis growing on the eggcrate in the 15-gallon tank (upper right in the photo above) has started to take off.  Expect photos of that, plus a new shipment of marine plants, in the next day or so.  Who knows, maybe there will once again be slugs in the Box of Slugs.

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